Week of 9/26: "Just Two Days a Month"

This week we look at district ESSER III spending by district size, and communication to parents about the importance of daily school attendance.


1. Two years ago this week Burbio published our first weekly School Opening Tracker.  We had issued press releases in August 2020 and early September 2020 highlighting school opening percentages and our clients were asking us for more layered insights into the trends behind the figures.  A few of our early observations:  
  • From our first blog on September 28th, 2020: "A state-level regulation allowing schools to open is the beginning  . . . It's a bit fluid and varies by state, but 'XYZ state allows schools to have in-person learning' does not mean 'Schools are now having in-person learning in XYZ state.'"
  • From October 26th, 2020: "There is a growing consensus contained in multiple reports that schools are not sources of Covid spread risks of opening schools have been overstated, and testing is proving that to be true as the US reopens. Further there is overwhelming consensus that low-income students are the most negatively impacted by virtual schooling  . . .  That said, our audits indicate schools opening to in-person learning (will) dramatically slow between now and January in particular due to the use of community-wide Covid thresholds as criteria for being able to have in-person learning . . "
  • From November 16th, 2020, " A number of large districts concentrated across the middle part of the US closed to in-person learning this week . . . .  A further issue  . . . is rules around quarantining  . . . . affecting schools ability to operate . . . . Whether Covid is spreading in the schools becomes a moot point if community spread results in exposure to infected individuals on site, and then results in a number of quarantined staffers that make operating schools in person untenable  . . ."
  • From December 14th, 2020: "Districts that have never gotten students in the classroom by definition face more headwinds than jurisdictions that have gone virtual due to Covid-19 induced shutdowns . . . the large 'never been in-person' urban districts are generally projecting dates to return at least younger students in the late January/February time frame but it's impossible to make a firm prediction. . . ."
 
A full blog history can be found here.
 
2.  Burbio's ongoing School Budget Tracker service examines ESSER III spending and school budgets.  This week we look at the reported "percent spent" of ESSER III funding by size of school district.   Note that the larger the district, the lower percentage of ESSER III funding is reported spent: 
 
Percent Spent by Enrollment Size
3.  From across the country we are seeing districts address daily school attendance in notes to parents.  The announcements frame how absences add up even if they seemingly occur infrequently, refer to data around academic achievement being tied to school attendance, and use slogans and contests to celebrate attendance.  Some examples:
  • "Who knew going to school could win your family a brand new car?"  asks San Antonio ISD as they announce their “Attend, Achieve, and Win” initiative, which involves giving away a Toyota RAV 4, in addition to Ipad and savings bond giveaways. 
  • Glenpool Public Schools, OK advises, "Parents, want successful children?  Get them in class!  Don't make it an option." (emphasis theirs).   In another announcement they note, "Being absent 1 day every two weeks.  How bad could that be?  1.3 school years missed . .. " 
  • Santa Fe Public Schools, NM leads with the headline, " Absent Students Have Lower Proficiency. . " and includes this chart showing the relationship between attendance and test results.  Note the gap of over 25 percentage points between students with 96-100 percent attendance rates and those with below 80 percent: 
Santa Fe Attendance Test Results Chart
  • Fargo Public Schools, ND uses the slogan "Attend to Win", noting  "46% of Fargo Public School students miss too much school. One in four students is chronically absent, which harms their chances for success now and into their futures." 
  • Henderson County Schools, KY leads with the slogan, " #SchoolEveryDay - Missing Just 2 Days a Month Means a Child Misses 10% of the School Year" before discussing "Kentucky High Attendance Day," noting, "On High Attendance Day . . . . The school in each category with the highest percentage attendance  . . . will receive a minimum $500 award and certificates to regional winners. . . .  Half the students who miss two to four days in September go on to miss nearly a month of school."
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, NC celebrated "Attendance Spirit Week" with activities such as Twin Day, Superhero Day, and Hat Day.  "More than 1 in 4 students (29%) were chronically absent in the 2021-2022 school year, which is more than twice as high as before the pandemic. Chronic absenteeism is when a student misses at least 10% of days in a school year for any reason," reads the announcement, while noting the district slogan "Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow."
  • Salem Public Schools, MA's opening week update begins with several points about attendance.  " . . . A chronically absent student (missing more than 18 or more school days in a year) is much less likely to be on grade level . . . Please reserve excused absences for emergencies or extraordinary circumstances  . . . Note that family vacations are not considered excused."
  • Hickman Mills C-1 School District, MO will be raffling $50 gift certificates to elementary and students each month based on students who achieve weekly perfect attendance, plus bikes to elementary school students who have perfect attendance for the year. 
  • "Learning is Not the Same Without Your Children" declares Alvin ISD, TX,  explaining that "missing 10% or more of the school year or 18 days over an entire year – they are less likely to read proficiently by third grade, achieve in middle school and graduate from high school . . ."

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